Behind-the-scenes Look at Drupal 8 Initiatives
Ask anyone who has worked in the digital space, and they’ll tell you that technology moves quickly. Changes take place. Updates happen. It’s imperative to stay on top of the latest news and information about the technology you’re involved with, otherwise you’ll quickly fall behind, and your reputation will suffer.
This all is certainly true for Drupal, which is constantly being upgraded with new features or bug fixes to improve the performance and usability of the platform.
To know what users wanted to see changed about the open-source platform, Drupal founder Dries Buytaert evaluated survey data from approximately 2,900 Drupal community members. That information, along with other forms of community feedback, influenced the development of Drupal’s seven current strategic initiatives.
Photo by Bram Naus
At Duo, we have different team members take ownership for keeping up-to-date with the latest information about each of these initiatives. We meet multiple times a month as a team, and one of the topics we cover are advancements related to the initiatives and how to respond to them for our Drupal 8 projects.
The reason for this is simple. We want to make sure we’re paying attention to what’s going on with these initiatives so we can participate in innovative conversations or potentially contribute code to the platform. At the same time, we want to ensure that we’re leveraging best practices, even as they’re emerging, for both Duo and our clients’ projects.
With that in mind, here’s a brief behind-the-scenes look at what the seven Drupal initiatives are and how they’re helping push Drupal forward.
The Migrate initiative is centered around looking for changes that are going to drive efficiency in performing Drupal 8 upgrades and migrations from other platforms into Drupal. Increased stability helps drive efficiency, and as the process becomes more stable, we no longer have to rely on patches or workarounds to deal with any bugs. This is helpful during projects involving migrations, since we’re able to spend less time on the migration and more time building out unique features on sites.
The Media initiative is imperative for the success of Drupal because this is an area where there have been detractors in the past. When people talk about the benefits of WordPress vs. Drupal, oftentimes the media entry and searching process is brought up, especially from the perspective of reusable file content. I’ve heard content editors complain that the media loading process on the back-end of a Drupal site is not necessarily intuitive. I’ve also heard that it is hard to find items within the media library. The Drupal community hears those complaints and has been making improvements and will continue to do so during upcoming releases.
One of Drupal’s key features as a platform is its flexibility. Well, the goal of the Layout initiative is to bring that same type of flexibility to the design of Drupal pages. Website builders need tools that are easy to understand and provide the opportunity to quickly build pages or change layouts so the site (and individual pages) can look exactly how they want.
Arguably Drupal’s biggest differentiator is its ability to integrate with modules and other platforms. Those integrations are usually handled through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). Often, a Drupal site will integrate with third-party services’ APIs to receive and share data across both platforms. Increasingly, however, it’s also important for Drupal to provide its own APIs so that its content is available for apps, other services, and other devices. API-first is one of the key initiatives to make improvements for decoupled Drupal.
One of the complaints that Drupal has faced over the years is about the content previewing experience. Unless you have a very simple website, the preview view of the site would not give a true preview how content would actually appear when viewed as a page. It was almost more of an interpretation of what the page would look like. This problem has been exacerbated with the evolution of different devices and screen sizes. One of the goals of this initiative is to make previewing your content easier.
At the same time, the Workflow initiative is also focused on the hugely important task of building workflows into Drupal core and providing authors and editors with tools to better share, review and collaborate on content before it is published. One goal to improve this process is to make it easy to allow content to be staged in a non-production environment and then have it automatically transfer to the production environment to become published.
The goal of the Outside-In initiative is to make the content editing experience easier. The thought is to give Drupal a way to allow editors to contextually make updates. One example is an editor looking at a live, published page, double clicking the headline on that page and then updating it, all without ever having to go to the back-end (or even a different page) of the site.
The Out-of-the-Box initiative seeks to showcase high-quality examples of what Drupal 8 core can do out-of-the-box, without additional module integration. The out-of-the-box experience for newcomers to Drupal has been poor for a really long time, so it’s important to pursue this initiative to help show off the platform’s true power and capabilities. Right now, if someone is interested in exploring or getting started with Drupal, after spinning up a site, there is no content, and everything looks really plain. This initiative will provide a well-designed theme, as well as example content.
At Duo, this has also been a concern, so we wanted to be able to create demo sites to show off Drupal 8 and some of the customizations that we typically use as we’re building out the platform. We’ve already developed our own starter kit that we use to quickly get a basic Drupal 8 site built with best practices in mind. It also provides customers with a library of commonly used components and a layout system for flexibly building out pages. By extending the starter kit, we’ve created a demo site that can show prospective customers some of Drupal’s capabilities and gives them a starting point and a feel for how everything on their website can ultimately work.
Drupal is constantly looking to grow as a platform, and at Duo, we’re keeping our attention focused on the latest evolutions of the platform so that we can give our customers a product they can count on.